Consumer Confidence Up, But Holiday Shopping Lags

As the holidays begin, consumer confidence is looking up. A December economic report from BIGResearch says that the number of consumers who are very confident or confident in the chances for a strong economy has risen to 43.1% from 39.3% in November. The increase in confidence parallels a decrease in those concerned with political and national security affairs. About one in five (20.2%) continue to worry, down a point from last month (21.2%) and about three points from 2004 (23.4%). This month December fewer consumers contend they’ve become more practical and realistic in their purchases. But they’re still more practical (45.2%) than they were a year ago (43.6%).

Still, news like GM’s planned 30,000-worker layoff has consumers feeling less jolly about the outlook for employment. This month, 42.1% are expecting “more” layoffs in the next six months (up from 40.1% in November), 45.0% are predicting the “same” (down from 46.8%), and 12.9% say “fewer” (down slightly from 13.1%). Personal concerns with becoming laid off remain stable at 5.0%.

With just a week left to go, men are still lagging behind in their holiday shopping, according to a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey of over 7,000 consumers. Entering last weekend, 17.9% of men had not yet begun their holiday shopping, compared to 12.5% of women. Overall, 30.83 million consumers had not yet started their shopping.

The survey reports that the average consumer had completed 54.6% of his or her holiday shopping, up from 46.3% in 2004; 12.4% of consumers had completely finished their shopping, and 22.2% had completed more than three-fourths of their shopping. Close to half of consumers polled planned on doing the remainder of their holiday shopping either at discount stores (42.1%) or department stores (41.2%). Consumers are also planning to wrap up their shopping at specialty stores, including clothing, toy, or electronics stores (30.8%) and online (30.2%). When purchasing gifts, 32.9% of consumers planned to pay with a debit or check card, 29.9% with a credit card, and 29% in cash.

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